‘HARDLINE BUDDHISTS’ THREATEN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH ASIA


 ‘HARDLINE BUDDHISTS’ THREATEN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH ASIA: BURMA AND SRI LANKA

 

by Syarif Hidayat

 

       Being “peaceful” or “humble” (as claimed by their biased supporters) is a far cry concerning the Sri Lankan and Burmese Buddhists. Their vindictive temperament prowls for vendetta, waiting to use even the most insignificant occurrence as an excuse to perpetrate violence on Burmese and Sri Lankan Muslims.

       At any time, if there’s some ethnic disturbance between Muslims and Buddhists/Hindus in any other country, the Sri Lankan and Burmese Buddhists waste no time going on a murderous spry killing the Muslim minority in Burma and Sri Lanka.


       Arab News in its editorial titled “Sri Lanka govt must contain Buddhist bigotry”  says ONE popular view of Buddhism is of a peaceable religion, some of whose devotees sweep brushes in front of them, so that they do not step on and destroy any living creature.

        Unfortunately there is another, far from placid side to some Buddhists which the Muslim world has had cause to see in recent years.  The genocidal attacks in Burma (Myanmar) on the luckless Muslim Rohingya community by Buddhist fanatics was, until this week, the most high profile example of this bigotry.

       Now however Buddhist thugs have also been at work in Sri Lanka. A mosque in the capital Colombo has been damaged and forced to close after violent attacks by Buddhist rioters.

 

 Extremist Buddist Monks ‘Bodu Bala Sena’

 

 Violent Monks Hardline Buddhist nationalists targeting Muslim minorities in Sri Lanka      This ugly outbreak of Islamophobia has been inspired by a shadowy group known as the Bodu Bala Sena, led by extremist Buddhist monks. It is suspected that there are connections between them and the monks who have led the massacres in Myanmar.

        Unfortunately, the violence against Sri Lanka’s hapless Muslim minority has to be viewed against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s recent history. More than 20 years of savage conflict ended in 2009 with the utter defeat of the Tamil Tigers and the overrunning of their strongholds in the north of the island.

        The harshness with which the victorious government treated the Tamils, was initially excused on the basis that it was important that none of the rebel leaders was able to slip away, by hiding among civilians. Nevertheless, there were summary executions and refugees were herded into camps and kept there many months for “processing.”

      Such was the bitter nature of the civil war that most Sri Lankans were to some extent or other brutalized. Moreover, an entire generation grew up steeped in conflict and confrontation. With the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, it seems that unfortunately some of the Sinhalese majority feel they need a new enemy, thus the country’s Muslims and indeed

        The attacks on Muslim property or physical assaults on Muslims are not confined to the capital, but have been occurring with increasing frequency throughout the island.

        Until recently, the violence and intimidation have been low level and might have been dismissed as the work of mischief-makers. Yet there now seems to be a pattern to these outrages. Even if the sinister Bodu Bala Sena is not behind every criminal act against Muslims, it can be sure that its own thuggish hatred is inspiring others.

 

Sri Lankan President’s wrong signal

 

Buddhists Attack Sri Lankan Mosque, 12 Injured       It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the government in Colombo must act with the greatest determination and firmness to stamp out this bigotry. The problem is that the police appear markedly reluctant to pursue and prosecute those responsible for these hate crimes.

       But it is not simply their lack of action and rigor that is the problem. Sri Lanka’s Muslims are seemingly being blamed for inciting the prejudice. How else can one interpret the fact that officials at the Colombo mosque, which has been at the center of this week’s violence, have been persuaded to close the building, at least temporarily?

        This is simply unacceptable. There can be nothing provocative about a mosque. It is the job of the police to protect all property and all Sri Lankan citizens. It should also be the job of the government to ensure that aggression and intimidation of the sort that has been seen in Colombo cannot be allowed to succeed. Unfortunately by failing in its duty,

        President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration is sending out entirely the wrong signal. Diplomatic sources suggest that there is enough evidence to prosecute some members of Bodu Bala Sena for hate crimes. These individuals ought therefore be brought to trial and if convicted given the severest of sentences.

       The government needs to demonstrate that it will not tolerate these outrages. Indeed, it could be argued that it is high time that the president looked to his poor reputation for civil liberties and human rights, and cracking down on sectarian bigots would be a fine start.

        Unfortunately, Rajapaksa seems to have a thick political skin. He has been accused by the UN Human Rights Council over the conduct of the civil war. And the UN organization was also critical of his administration’s treatment to all the country’s minorities. This November Rajapaksa is due to host a meeting of what used to be known as the British Commonwealth.

       Some countries have said they might stay away because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record. They should reconsider. If there has been no improvement, all countries should attend the conference and should use the platform to shame and condemn Rajapaksa in the most detailed terms.

 

‘Hardline Buddhists’ threaten Muslims

 

       Hayes Brown in his article titled “How South Asia’s ‘hardline Buddhists’ threaten Muslim communities” published in ThinkProgres website, writes the term “hardline Buddhist” may seem like an oxymoron, but it accurately describes the movement currently leading attacks on Muslim communities in South Asia. So far, though, the United States has done little to pressure the governments in question to halt the violence, to the chagrin of human rights activists.

       Sri Lanka, where 69 percent of the population is Buddhist, is home to a small community of Muslims who kept a low-profile during the country’s lengthy civil war. Recently, however, a number of hardline Buddhist groups have sprung up, stirring anti-Muslim fervor among the majority Sinhalese ethnic group.

       These groups — that call themselves names like the Buddhist Strength Force and Sinhala Echo — accused the minority community of producing exam results “distorted to favor Muslims” and claimed that calves had been slaughtered indoors — which is illegal in the country’s capital. Neither claim has borne out, but they have led to mass protests and attacks against Muslims and their communities.

        Most recently, a Buddhist monk-led mob in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, swarmed and assaulted a Muslim-owned clothing warehouse on Thursday: The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo said the monks led a crowd which quickly swelled to about 500, yelling insults against the shop’s Muslim owners and rounding on journalists seeking to cover the events.

       Five or six were injured, including a cameraman who needed stitches.

Eyewitnesses said the police stood and watched although after the trouble spread they brought it under control. Similar persecution is ongoing against Myanmar’s Muslim communities, who make up only four percent of the total population. In the face of spreading violence, also kicked up by hardline Buddhists, Burmese Muslims are fleeing their homes, leaving behind destroyed mosques and shops.

      At least 40 people have died in the clashes since March 20, as the fighting moves closer to the capital. These most recent attacks have left some 12,000 people displaced from their homes, according to the U.N.

       Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on Myanmar human rights, on Thursday said he had “received reports of state involvement in some of the acts of violence,” earning himself a rebuke from the Burmese government. President Thein Sein on Thursday said that his government would use force if need be to clamp down on the violence, but only as a last resort.

       The violence against Burmese Muslims in general has found a particular target in members of the Rohingya ethnic group. Stateless due to their status under a 1982 citizenship law, many Burmese believe the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

       Because of this, the Rohingya have faced down violence and persecution for years, to the degree that some have called their situation a “genocide.” The group has caught the eye of hacktivist group Anonymous, which is now claiming credit for promoting more awareness of the Rohingya’s plight.

      At present, the U.S. has backed President Thein’s call for calm, but not commented on the violence in Sri Lanka, nor taken apparent action to pressure either government to halt the attacks.

       This echoes previous instances of violence, such as in Sept. 2012, when the State Department urged Bangladesh to keep its borders open as Rohingya fled from Myanmar. President Obama, during his Nov. 2012 visit to Myanmar, called for greater protection of minorities in the country. So far, this call hasn’t not seemed to be heard in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

 

Hardline Buddhists target Muslims in Sri Lanka

 

Mcgo-Budd-411 / Source: www.foreignaffairs.com      Palash R. Ghosh in his article titled “Hardline Buddhists target Muslims in Sri Lanka” published in International Busniness Times, writes Sectarian violence on the island nation of Sri Lanka again threatens to tear the country’s fragile fabric apart. Government commando forces have stepped up security around Muslim-owned businesses and homes around the nation after a mob of hundreds of Buddhist extremists set fire to a clothing store and warehouse in Pepiliyana, a suburb of the capital of Colombo, on Thursday.

       The crowd also smashed vehicles and pelted stones before an army unit was called in to disperse the rioters. No arrests were made, however. The attack injured at least five people, including journalists seeking to cover the event, and appears to reflect the continuing hostility directed at minority Muslims from hard-line members of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

        Muslims account for about 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. “We are deploying more mobile patrols in vulnerable [Muslim] areas [across Sri Lanka],” a senior police officer told the Agence France- Presse news agency.The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka warned that Thursday’s disturbances pushed religious and ethnic tensions to the island to a new high.

        “It has created a fear psychosis among the Muslims,” N.M. Ameen, the council president, told AFP. “[But] we know a majority of the [Buddhist] people do not support this type of activity.” Indeed, one of Sri Lanka’s most vocal and prominent Buddhist nationalist group, the Bodhu Bala Sena, or BBS, which means “Buddhist Force,” denied they were involved in the latest altercations.

        “We condemn this attack in the strongest terms,” BBS spokesman Galaboda Aththe Gnanasara told reporters in Colombo. But BBS has a history of making inflammatory remarks against Muslims, having already forced Islamic clerics to withdraw halal certification on local foods, citing that it “offends” non-Muslims.

        BBS officials have also claimed that Muslim students receive favorable treatment in schools and are carrying out illegal practices related to the slaughter of livestock. Some nationalist Buddhist monks also accuse Muslims of constructing too many mosques, seeking to forcibly convert Buddhists to Islam and of having too many children in order to increase their influence in society.

       Akmeemana Dayarathana, founder of another ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, Sinhala Echo, said that Muslims have a history of destroying Buddhist communities and cultures across South and East Asia.

“[Sri Lanka] is the only country for the Sinhalese,” he told BBC. ”Look around the world — Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and others — they were all Buddhist countries, but the Muslims destroyed the culture and then took over the country. We worry they’re planning it here too.”

       The violence in Pepiliyana echoed an incident from January, when another Buddhist mob threw stones at a Muslim-owned clothing store outside Colombo, while other Buddhists have called for a boycott of Muslim businesses.

     Over the past year, a number of mosques have been attacked, vandalized and defaced. An extraordinary facet of these attacks is that they are often led by robe-wearing Buddhist monks. Sri Lanka has already endured a devastating multidecade civil war that pitted the majority Sinhalese Buddhists against a group of separatist ethnic Tamils, who are Hindu. The Tamils were brutally crushed by the army in the final stages of that civil war.

        Muslims generally stayed out of that conflict, maintaining a low profile, although they suffered many casualties. Now, fearing a renewed wave of violence, the government’s Minister for Justice Rauff Hakeem (a Muslim) has asked Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne to call a cabinet meeting to discuss security issues and the vulnerability of Muslims in the country.

       Colombo police have also established a phone hotline for people to complain about anyone seeking to “incite religious or racial hatred.” Some analysts believe that extremist Sinhalese Buddhists, fresh off their defeat and demoralization of Tamil Hindus, are now targeting another visible minority — the Muslims.

       “The country is seen today as Sinhala Buddhist,” said Sanjana Hattotuwa, editor of groundviews.org, a journalism website. “The end of the [Sinhalese vs. Tamil civil] war ironically has given the space for new social fault lines to occur.”

        Hattotuwa’s organization has cited that in the early 1980s Buddhists committed a type of pogrom against Hindu Tamils, which eventually precipitated a multidecade civil war. Now they fear the government (dominated by Sinhalese Buddhists) is not doing enough to prevent another potential conflagration.

       “The vandalism of mosques around the country are ominous signs,” an editorial in Groundviews states. “The inaction by the authorities, and in some case the support of the organization by members of the government, is paving the way for further racism.

        “For a nation that prides itself on being ‘multinational,’ such racist sentiment will only serve to damage its future. Nationalistic ideals fueled by racism cost the country 30 years [in the civil war]; unfortunately, four years on from the end of the last conflict, Sri Lanka appears to be headed down the same path.”

 

Sri Lanka Buddhists disrupt mosque’s prayers

 

         A mosque in Sri Lanka has been forced to abandon its Friday prayers amid community tensions in the central town of Dambulla. About 2,000 Buddhists, including monks, marched to the mosque and held a demonstration demanding its demolition, along with a Hindu temple being built in an area designated as a Buddhist sacred zone.

        Monk Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thera told the AP news agency that the construction area was inside the zone and that erecting houses of worship for other religions there was illegal. He demanded the authorities stop the construction immediately. Shortly after the protest, the mosque was evacuated under police protection and its Friday prayers cancelled.

        Many Buddhists regard Dambulla as a sacred town and in recent months there had been other sectarian tensions in the area. Last September a monk led a crowd to demolish a Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura, not far from Dambulla. M Rahmathullah, a trustee of the mosque, disputed the Buddhist claim.

        “We do not agree to their claim. The mosque was in the area for more than 50 years,” said Rahmathullah. Overnight the mosque had been targeted by a fire bombing, but nobody was hurt. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Sri Lanka’s 20 million people.

         About 74 per cent are Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists, while about 18 per cent are Tamils, who are predominantly Hindus or Christians. About seven per cent of the total population are Muslims.

 

Myanmar Muslims suffering amid media blackout

 

Rakhine Muslims / Source: presstv.ir       Kourosh Ziabari in his article titled “Myanmar Muslims suffering amid media blackout” published in www.Onlineopinian.com.au , writes As Muslims around the world prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are being painfully subjected to barbaric and appalling atrocities of extremist Buddhists. Their lives are in a constant state of trepidation and suffering.

       Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingyas are a Muslim people living in the Rakhine State, located in the west of Myanmar. With a population of 3 million, Rakhine state is bordered by the Bay of Bengal to the west and the majority of its residents are Theravada Buddhists and Hindus.

        The suppression of the Rohingya Muslims of the Arakan region dates back to World War II. On March 28, 1942, about 5,000 Rohingya Muslims were brutally massacred by the Rakhine nationalists in the Minbya and Mrohaung Townships. After this incident, the Muslims of the region were frequently subject to harassment by the Burmese government which has so far refused to grant them official citizenship.

        According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this lack of full citizenship rights means that the Rohingyas should tolerate other abuses, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, and arbitrary confiscation of property.

         It’s said that as a result of dire living conditions and discriminatory treatment by the government, some 300,000 Rohingyas have so far immigrated to Bangladesh and 24,000 of them have also escaped to Malaysia in search of a better life. Many of them have also fled to Thailand, but neither Bangladesh nor Thailand has received them warmly.

       Bangladesh is negotiating with the Burmese government to return the Rohingyas and Thailand has sporadically rejected them. There have been instances where boats of Rohingyas reaching Thailand have been towed out to sea and allowed to sink, sparking international anger among Muslims and non-Muslims.

        Human Rights Watch says that the government authorities continue to require Rohingya Muslims to perform forced labor. According to HRW, those who refuse or complain are physically threatened, sometimes with death, and children as young as seven years old have been seen on forced labour teams.

        Writing for The Egyptian Gazette, University of Waterloo professor Dr. Mohamed Elmasry has enumerated the different hardships the Rohingya Muslims have historically undergone. He writes that they are subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction and house destruction and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps.

        The Myanmar government’s mistreatment of the Rohingyas, however, has long been contested and protested by international organizations. For several years, human rights activists have decried the arbitrary measures levelled against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by the government and extremist Buddhists.

        In May 2009, Elaine Pearson, the Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director issued a statement in protest at the deteriorating conditions of the Rohingya Muslims, calling on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to press the Burmese government to end its brutal practices: “the treatment of the Rohingya in Burma is deplorable – the Burmese government doesn’t just deny Rohingya their basic rights, it denies they are even Burmese citizens.”

        Now, conflict has escalated in the Rakhine State again and Muslims are once more experiencing difficult days. It was reported that 10 Rohingya Muslims were killed by a mob of 300 Rakhines while on their way back from the country’s former capital Rangoon.

         According to a group of UK-based NGOs, 650 Rohingyas were massacred from June 10 to 28. The United Nations estimates that between 50,000 and 90,000 Rohingyas were displaced since the eruption of violence in the Asian nation. However, due to the absence of independent reporters and monitors in the country, it’s impossible to verify the exact number of those who have been displaced.

        It’s also reported that some 9,000 homes belonging to Muslims in the western state of Rakhine were destroyed. On July 20, Amnesty International called the recent attacks against minority Rohingyas and other Muslims in Myanmar a “step back” in the country’s recent progress on human rights, citing increased violence and unlawful arrests following a state of emergency declared six weeks ago.

         The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has voiced its concern over the recent violence in the state of Rakhine and the varying reports which have leaked out as to the number of the Muslims killed. As reported by the TimeTurk News Agency, over 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered thus far in conflicts in the region. The mainstream media in the West have been largely silent about the massacre of Muslims in Myanmar and the ordeal that has befallen them.

        Along with the mainstream media, the Western governments have also blatantly turned a blind eye to the heartrending anguish and suffering of the Rohingya Muslims. Even the renowned Burmese political activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been released from house arrest and was just invited to Norway to deliver her Nobel acceptance speech 21 years after being awarded the prize, preferred not to speak about the affliction of her fellow citizens.

         People around the world, however, should realize that coming to the help of a subjugated minority that is undergoing excruciating hardship is a moral responsibility and although the so-called international community is silent about the inhumane massacre of Muslims in Myanmar, each of us can lend a hand in putting an end to their suffering.

 

Who will feed Rohingya Myanmar Muslims?

 

         AID groups have warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in western Myanmar as authorities attempt to isolate tens of thousands of the displaced ethnic Rohingya minority in camps described by one aid worker as “open air prisons”. Aid has struggled to reach those affected by sectarian unrest in early June. The UN announced on Friday that 10 aid workers in Arakan state had been arrested, five were UN staff. Some have been charged, although the details remain unclear.

          Rates of malnutrition among the Muslim Rohingya, who have borne the brunt of emergency measures implemented in the wake of fierce rioting in June between the minority group and the majority Arakanese, are said to be “alarming”. Most aid workers have either been evacuated or forced to flee in recent weeks.

         “We are worried that malnutrition rates already have and will continue to rise dramatically; if free and direct humanitarian access accompanied by guaranteed security is not granted with the shortest delay, there’s no way they won’t rise,” said Tarik Kadir of Action Against Hunger.

        Its staff were forced to leave northern Arakan state, where 800,000 Rohingya live and where malnutrition rates were already far above the global indicator for a health crisis. With scant medical care reaching the area, the situation is likely to worsen.

        “There’s no way of measuring the impact over the past month because staff have either been evacuated or forced to flee,” he said. “And given that rainy season is under way, when you factor in all these other problems, we don’t need to measure it to know it’s a catastrophe.”

        President Thein Sein, who has been praised for reform, unsuccessfully requested UN help in resettling nearly one million Rohingya abroad. Critics likened it to mass deportation. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said it “would expect a strong international response” to any attempt to deport the Rohingya. HRW staff who recently returned from Arakan state said that while both Rohingya and Arakanese were complicit in “terrible violence” during the rioting, subsequent mass arrests “focused on Rohingya”.

        “Local police, the military, and border police have shot and killed Rohingya during sweep operations, those detained are being held incommunicado,” she said.

        A resident of Maungdaw in northern Arakan said he had witnessed Rohingya men and children as young as 12 being tortured in a police station in early July. After interrogating them about arson attacks in the town, police “handed them over” to Arakanese youths inside the station.

       “I saw these youths burning the vital parts of old men with a cheroot [cigar] and also hitting young Muslim detainees with an iron rod.” The official death toll of the rioting and its aftermath has been put at 78, although the real figure may be much higher.

        International observers are banned from visiting northern Arakan state. A 1982 law refuses to recognise the Rohingya as Myanmar citizens, and hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh. The aid problems have coincided with a dramatic rise in food prices in Arakan. — The Guardian, London.

 

11 Muslims killed by Buddhists in Myanmar

 

        At least eleven Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been killed after extremist Buddhists set fire to their houses in two Muslim villages in the city of Sittwe in the western Rakhine state, a report says.

        The incident occurred when a number of Buddhists backed by army and border forces set fire to houses of Muslims in the villages of Mamra and Mraut late Sunday, Radio Banga reported. Myanmar army forces allegedly provided the Buddhists with big containers of petrol to set ablaze the houses of Muslim villagers and force them to flee their houses.

        The silence of the human rights organizations towards abuses against the Rohingya Muslims has emboldened the extremist Buddhists and Myanmar’s government forces.

        The Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas and has classified them as illegal migrants, even though the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.

        According to reports, thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are living in dire conditions in refugee camps after government forces and Buddhist extremists started burning down their villages on August 10.

Reports say some 650 Rohingyas have been killed in the Rakhine state in the west of the country in recent months. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced. (HSH)

 

Bibliotheque:

 

1.      ThinkProgress.org (http://muslimvillage.com)

2.    IB Times (http://muslimvillage.com)

3.    arabnews.com (http://muslimvillage.com)

4.    aljazeera.com (http://muslimvillage.com)

5.     presstv.ir (http://muslimvillage.com)

6.    onlineopinion.com.au (http://muslimvillage.com)

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3 thoughts on “‘HARDLINE BUDDHISTS’ THREATEN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH ASIA

  1. Sri Lankan Buddhist extremists attack Muslim mosque
    Buddhist Extremists
    By W.A. Sunil
    13 August 2013

    Sinhala extremists led by several Buddhist monks attacked a mosque at Grandpass in Colombo on Saturday during the evening prayers at about 6.30 pm. According to local residents, more than 150 people came armed with wooden poles, stones and glass bottles. The mob has also attacked several homes belonging to Muslim people. At least 12 people were injured, three of whom remain in hospital, one in a critical condition.

    No one identified the organisation that led the assault. There are several Sinhala-Buddhist extremist groups led by Buddhist monks—Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist power force), Sinhala Ravaya (Sinhala Echo) and Ravana Balakaya (Ravana Force)—whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment. About a week ago, Sinhala Ravaya monks went to the area and told Islamic clerics to close down the mosque.

    The mosque was completed about two months ago, after the government ordered the demolition of an old one nearby under its city development plan. Buddhist extremists opposed the new mosque and warned it should be removed by August 10.

    Sections of the media are trying to paint the attack as a result of hostility between Sinhala residents and the Tamil-speaking minority. That is completely false. Grandpass is a predominantly working class area in Colombo where Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people live and there is no history of communal violence.

    Several residents who spoke with WSWS reporters exposed the media lies. “All of us, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people alike, live here without any problem,” one said. “We support each other in our religious and social events.”

    The assault was obviously planned. According to Muslim residents, the bell of the adjacent Buddhist temple was rung to gather attackers. They blocked the mosque gate and entered. At the time, there were some 90 worshippers inside, who were sent to the upper floor by the clerics for their own protection. The mob tried to set fire to the building but were forced to retreat as worshippers began to resist and hundreds of Muslim people rushed to the mosque.

    Residents said the police just watched the violence, without preventing it. The Sri Lanka Muslim Council condemned the attack as “a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of Muslims” in Sri Lanka and accused the police of “failing to intervene,” despite the presence of senior officers .

    The government deployed riot police and an elite special police task force only after Muslim youth began retaliating. The police imposed 13-hour curfews on Saturday and Sunday nights. On Sunday, President Mahinda Rajapakse instructed several of his ministers to hold discussions with Muslim government ministers, and Muslim and Buddhist clerics, in a bid to quell anger among Muslims.

    After the discussion, Technology Minister Champika Ranawaka, the general secretary of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU)—which has been in the forefront of provocative campaign against Muslims—told the media that the issue was solved “through a just solution acceptable to all sides.” Under the “solution,” the Muslim clerics have to relocate the mosque to the old location that had been earmarked for demolition.

    Muslim ministers in the ruling coalition issued a statement condemning the attack and mildly criticising the government for not preventing earlier attacks. These ministers, including Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem, are anxious to maintain their privileged posts. They plan to ask the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to press the government to halt the anti-Muslim campaign.

    The latest attack is not an isolated incident. Muslim Council president N. M. Ameen told the media that more than 20 mosques had been attacked since last year. These occurred at Anuradhapura and Dambulla in North-Central province, Balangoda in Ratnapura District, Mahiyangana in Badulla District, and several other places. In March, two Muslim-owned businesses at Papiliyana in Colombo were attacked.

    The extremist Sinhala-Buddhist organisations continue their anti-Muslim campaign with impunity, thanks to the patronage of Rajapakse’s United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government and the support of the JHU. Bodu Bala Sena has built a multi-storey building in Colombo with the government’s aid. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the president’s brother, has a particularly close relationship with Bodu Bala Sena.

    In June, Sinhala Ravaya organised a 250-kilometre march from Kataragama to Colombo, seeking to inflame anti-Muslim sentiment. Among its demands were a halt to the killing of cattle and outlawing religious conversion. On the way, the marchers set fire to a beef stall at Tangalla, a criminal offence. Police just watched the blaze. At the end of the march, leading Buddhist monks were entertained by President Rajapakse, who promised to implement their demands within two months.

    The Rajapakse government has turned to such anti-Muslim campaigns, along with continuing anti-Tamil propaganda, in order to divide the working class along ethnic and religious lines. The government, already facing growing opposition to its austerity measures dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is preparing more attacks on jobs, wages and social programs such as health and education.

    The government’s economic measures and violations of basic democratic rights have provoked a spate of protests by government workers, rural peasants and students in recent months. A recent demonstration by thousands of people at Weliweriya, in Gampaha district, against industrial water pollution pointed to the growing social unrest. On August 1, Rajapakse’s government deployed the military to suppress the protest, killing three youth.

    A clear pattern has emerged. The government is whipping up communalism with the help of Sinhala Buddhist extremist groups, while using military and police-state methods to suppress workers, youth and the poor.

  2. Extremism Rises Among Myanmar Buddhists
    Extremist Monks
    By THOMAS FULLER
    Published: June 20, 2013

    TAUNGGYI, Myanmar — After a ritual prayer atoning for past sins, Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk with a rock-star following in Myanmar, sat before an overflowing crowd of thousands of devotees and launched into a rant against what he called “the enemy” — the country’s Muslim minority.

    “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu said, referring to Muslims.

    “I call them troublemakers, because they are troublemakers,” Ashin Wirathu told a reporter after his two-hour sermon. “I am proud to be called a radical Buddhist.”

    The world has grown accustomed to a gentle image of Buddhism defined by the self-effacing words of the Dalai Lama, the global popularity of Buddhist-inspired meditation and postcard-perfect scenes from Southeast Asia and beyond of crimson-robed, barefoot monks receiving alms from villagers at dawn.

    But over the past year, images of rampaging Burmese Buddhists carrying swords and the vituperative sermons of monks like Ashin Wirathu have underlined the rise of extreme Buddhism in Myanmar — and revealed a darker side of the country’s greater freedoms after decades of military rule. Buddhist lynch mobs have killed more than 200 Muslims and forced more than 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.

    Ashin Wirathu denies any role in the riots. But his critics say that at the very least his anti-Muslim preaching is helping to inspire the violence.

    What began last year on the fringes of Burmese society has grown into a nationwide movement whose agenda now includes boycotts of Muslim-made goods. Its message is spreading through regular sermons across the country that draw thousands of people and through widely distributed DVDs of those talks. Buddhist monasteries associated with the movement are also opening community centers and a Sunday school program for 60,000 Buddhist children nationwide.

    The hate-filled speeches and violence have endangered Myanmar’s path to democracy, raising questions about the government’s ability to keep the country’s towns and cities safe and its willingness to crack down or prosecute Buddhists in a Buddhist-majority country. The killings have also reverberated in Muslim countries across the region, tarnishing what was almost universally seen abroad as a remarkable and rare peaceful transition from military rule to democracy. In May, the Indonesian authorities foiled what they said was a plot to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta in retaliation for the assaults on Muslims.

    Ashin Wirathu, the spiritual leader of the radical movement, skates a thin line between free speech and incitement, taking advantage of loosened restrictions on expression during a fragile time of transition. He was himself jailed for eight years by the now-defunct military junta for inciting hatred. Last year, as part of a release of hundreds of political prisoners, he was freed.

    In his recent sermon, he described the reported massacre of schoolchildren and other Muslim inhabitants in the central city of Meiktila in March, documented by a human rights group, as a show of strength.

    “If we are weak,” he said, “our land will become Muslim.”

    Buddhism would seem to have a secure place in Myanmar. Nine in 10 people are Buddhist, as are nearly all the top leaders in the business world, the government, the military and the police. Estimates of the Muslim minority range from 4 percent to 8 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 55 million people while the rest are mostly Christian or Hindu.

    But Ashin Wirathu, who describes himself as a nationalist, says Buddhism is under siege by Muslims who are having more children than Buddhists and buying up Buddhist-owned land. In part, he is tapping into historical grievances that date from British colonial days when Indians, many of them Muslims, were brought into the country as civil servants and soldiers.

    The muscular and nationalist messages he has spread have alarmed Buddhists in other countries.

    The Dalai Lama, after the riots in March, said killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable” and urged Myanmar’s Buddhists to contemplate the face of the Buddha for guidance.

    Phra Paisal Visalo, a Buddhist scholar and prominent monk in neighboring Thailand, says the notion of “us and them” promoted by Myanmar’s radical monks is anathema to Buddhism. But he lamented that his criticism and that of other leading Buddhists outside the country have had “very little impact.”

    “Myanmar monks are quite isolated and have a thin relationship with Buddhists in other parts of the world,” Phra Paisal said. One exception is Sri Lanka, another country historically bedeviled by ethnic strife. Burmese monks have been inspired by the assertive political role played by monks from Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

    As Myanmar has grown more polarized, there have been nascent signs of a backlash against the anti-Muslim preaching.

    Among the most disappointed with the outbreaks of violence and hateful rhetoric are some of the leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a peaceful uprising led by Buddhist monks against military rule.

    “We were not expecting this violence when we chanted for peace and reconciliation in 2007,” said the abbot of Pauk Jadi monastery, Ashin Nyana Nika, 55, who attended a meeting earlier this month sponsored by Muslim groups to discuss the issue. (Ashin is the honorific for Burmese monks.) Ashin Sanda Wara, the head of a monastic school in Yangon, says the monks in the country are divided nearly equally between moderates and extremists.

    He considers himself in the moderate camp. But as a measure of the deeply ingrained suspicions toward Muslims in the society, he said he was “afraid of Muslims because their population is increasing so rapidly.”

    Ashin Wirathu has tapped into that anxiety, which some describe as the “demographic pressures” coming from neighboring Bangladesh. There is wide disdain in Myanmar for a group of about one million stateless Muslims, who call themselves Rohingya, some of whom migrated from Bangladesh. Clashes between the Rohingya and Buddhists last year in western Myanmar roiled the Buddhist community and appear to have played a role in later outbreaks of violence throughout the country. Ashin Wirathu said they served as his inspiration to spread his teachings.

    The theme song to Ashin Wirathu’s movement speaks of people who “live in our land, drink our water, and are ungrateful to us.”

    “We will build a fence with our bones if necessary,” runs the song’s refrain. Muslims are not explicitly mentioned in the song but Ashin Wirathu said the lyrics refer to them. Pamphlets handed out at his sermon demonizing Muslims said that “Myanmar is currently facing a most dangerous and fearful poison that is severe enough to eradicate all civilization.”

    Many in Myanmar speculate, without offering proof, that Ashin Wirathu is allied with hard-line Buddhist elements in the country who want to harness the nationalism of his movement to rally support ahead of elections in 2015. Ashin Wirathu denies any such links.

    But the government has done little to rein him in. During Ashin Wirathu’s visit here in Taunggyi, traffic policemen cleared intersections for his motorcade.

    Once inside the monastery, as part of a highly choreographed visit, his followers led a procession through crowds of followers who prostrated themselves as he passed.

    Ashin Wirathu’s movement calls itself 969, three digits that monks say symbolize the virtues of the Buddha, Buddhist practices and the Buddhist community.

    Stickers with the movement’s logo are now ubiquitous nationwide on cars, motorcycles and shops. The movement has also begun a signature campaign calling for a ban on interfaith marriages, and pamphlets are distributed at sermons listing Muslim brands and shops to be avoided.

    In Mawlamyine, a multicultural city southeast of Yangon, a monastery linked to the 969 movement has established the courses of Buddhist instruction for children, which it calls “Sunday dhamma schools.” Leaders of the monasteries there seek to portray their campaign as a sort of Buddhist revivalist movement.

    “The main thing is that our religion and our nationality don’t disappear,” said Ashin Zadila, a senior monk at the Myazedi Nanoo monastery outside the city.

    Yet despite efforts at describing the movement as nonthreatening, many Muslims are worried.

    Two hours before Ashin Wirathu rolled into Taunggyi in a motorcade that included 60 honking motorcycles, Tun Tun Naing, a Muslim vendor in the city’s central market, spoke of the visit in a whisper.

    “I’m really frightened,” he said, stopping in midsentence when customers entered his shop. “We tell the children not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.”

    Wai Moe contributed reporting from Mandalay and Yangon, Myanmar, and Poypiti Amatatham from Bangkok.

  3. Hundreds Muslims become homeless after fresh unrest in Myanmar
    Myanmar refugees
    Rohingya News Agency-Tuesday, 27/08/2013 (Press Tv): ‎Hundreds of Muslims in Myanmar become homeless after Buddhists burnt their homes and shops in Sagaing region of the violence-wracked country.

    Local officials say more than 300 people are currently sheltering at a school after Buddhist mobs torched their homes two days ago.

    On Saturday, around a thousand anti-Muslim rioters rampaged through villages in the northwestern town of Kanbalu in the central region of Sagaing. The mobs set fire to Muslims’ properties and attacked rescue vehicles.

    Sources say dozens of houses and shops were left in charred ruins.

    “The fires burned until last night, but they have now been extinguished after it rained heavily,” said Myint Naing, a local MP for the opposition National League for Democracy party.

    This is the fourth anti-Muslim riot to break out in central and northern Myanmar this year.

    Similar violence in the Western Rakhine state last year left nearly 200 people dead; most of them were Rohingya Muslims.

    Meanwhile, the government has recently relocated hundreds of Muslims living in Rakhine to a camp for internally displaced people. They were moved from Aung Mingalar quarter in Sittwe to a camp outside the township.

    The government says the relocation was voluntary, but activists say many of the families are unhappy about leaving, fearing their conditions would go from bad to worse.

    A large number of Muslims have been living in Aung Mingalar quarter after their homes were torched by Buddhist mobs last year.

    Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in attacks by extremists.

    International bodies and human rights organizations accuse the government of turning a blind eye to the violence.

    Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar account for about five percent of the country’s population of nearly 60 million. They have been persecuted and faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country’s independence in 1948.

    Myanmar’s government has been repeatedly criticized for failing to protect the Rohingya Muslims.

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